Blogs - Blogs
Friday, May 23, 2014

ICYMI: Hollywood Anti-Fracking Environmentalists Happy to Team with Fake Middle Eastern Oil
This week, an investigative video was released showing Hollywood film producers eager to accept Middle Eastern money to produce an anti-fracking video. The actor, portraying a wealthy Middle Eastern investor, is clear that he wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in America because it hurts the Middle Eastern oil industry, and he wants to pay the Hollywood producers to make the movie. The producers not only agree to make the movie, but they have no qualms with hiding his financial involvement behind a wall of far-left environmental activists and non-governmental organizations. The producers make it clear - this is not their first time.

Click here to watch the video.

Sen. David Vitter made the following statement:

"Natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing is clearly one of the brightest spots in our nation's economy. We know there's clear collusion between the Obama Administration, the EPA and far-left environmentalists, including the Hollywood elite, to pursue an anti-domestic energy production agenda. Thankfully this time the joke is on them because their agenda has not been a joke for America's middle class workforce and our economy."

In the video, the Hollywood producers tell the fake Middle Eastern investor how his involvement can be hidden behind the participation of various environmentalists groups like Moveon.org, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). They explain it is necessary to hide his investment, so that the film will have greater credibility and a greater political impact.

EPW Republicans have obtained the transcript from the investigative video. Below are some excerpts:

• "This is not the first major project that we've had funded through a funding source which you know, for various reasons - we didn't disclose. It would have been very unwise for everybody to understand the dynamics of that funding. So we know how tricky it is.... It's money, so in that sense we have no moral issue." - said Josh Tickell, 3/10/14

• "Friends of the Earth -- with their Executive Director. So essentially, whatever -- whatever -- however we did this, it would be essentially housed inside of a group of non-profits and very high profile people who are already in the movement and who are already working along the movement. So for all intents and purposes, anybody looking from the outside at this will see all of these people involved cast (sic) working for, working with the movie and will be like, ‘Oh, well, we can see -- we do see where the funding came from. It came from all of these.' They will make the assumption. We will not offer it. You know?" - Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "The second group of people is - it's the Code Blue Foundation. The NGO's responsible for funding the anti-fracking and Upper New York - in New York State. So they're well known in the fracking movement. And they would love to executive produce and put their names on the film. And then the third - the third entity - well, actually, they won't necessarily be an executive producer, but they're very close with Environment California.... Moveon.org is doing a pretty big push right now and we're in touch with their high sort of level team. And then the other one is ... Friends of Earth." - said Rebecca Tickell, 2/28/4

• "And then what we normally do is we always list all the foundations we work with in the thank you's of the credits. And they take a look at that as - it's like people just look at the credits or they look at the website or they look at the non-profits involved and they go, "okay, this is who put money in." - said Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "Here's the thing - I think it really did, you know, looking back - certainly looking back at the mediascape of how the bloggers fare, how did the fare, how did the sort of digital world respond to Promised Land? I think it really hurt the movie to have one of the production companies based on Abu Dhabi and for that to be so public and so up front." - said Josh Tickell, 2/28/14

• "But the anti-fracking community just like the heads of the NRDC, Moveon.org, Environment California it's a small community... I was on a call with Stan Jacobsen, runs Environment California, when we did the Prop 87 initiative, and I was one of ten people on that call. That was, that was all the major players. NRDC, Your Club, GreenPeace, Moveon.org, and then Environment California, Environment America, and Friends of the Earth, that was it, it was ten people. So you know we're just, we're hyper aware and hyper sensitive that that the coalitions are tight knit, they are cellular in that they can work independently, but around this issue specifically around fracking everyone, everyone is like on the same level. So the communication is pretty clear between those organizations." - said Josh Tickell, 3/10/14

-30-


Thursday, May 22, 2014

How the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Act Abuse Impacts Local Governments
While concern over the size and scope of our federal government grows, so does the government’s ambition to welcome itself into your backyard
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPW Republicans are concerned with the way this Administration's water-related policies threaten our nation's economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more.

If finalized, the proposed "waters of the United States" rule will result in a significant expansion of federal authority under the CWA. As the number of waters considered jurisdictional under the CWA increases, so do the impacts on our cities and counties. The term "navigable waters" appears more than 70 times through the CWA, and the proposed rule would redefine navigable waters every time it appears. Each time a water body is deemed to be a "waters of the United States," costly administrative and regulatory actions are imposed, and it is our local governments, and in turn, fellow citizens, who will bear a significant portion of the burden. Additionally, if finalized, the proposed rule would also subject our local governments to even more lawsuits from radical environmentalists. Here are a few concerns local governments should be aware of:

1. Costs to Maintain Your Community's Infrastructure Would Increase

The proposed "waters of the United States" rule would increase the number of ditches, such as roadside, flood channels, and others that will be subject federal jurisdiction. Necessary ditch maintenance activities, like clearing vegetation and debris, generally require Section 404 permits, which are costly and time-consuming to obtain. With more ditches subject to federal jurisdiction and more Section 404 permits required, the proposed rule would significantly increase the financial burdens on our cities and counties. These added costs will undoubtedly be passed on to local residents, as most cities and counties currently struggle to afford financial liabilities associated with regulatory requirements.

2. Stormwater Control Costs Would Increase, Burdening Local Governments

Under the proposed rule, all tributaries are considered "waters of the United States." Given that municipal storm water systems function as tributaries, they would also require the regulation of all flow into and out of the system. Thus, local governments would be responsible for meeting additional requirements to maintain stormwater infrastructure, which includes ditches, channels, pipes, and gutters. The cost of attainment to retrofit and maintain entire systems would be significant and burdensome.

3. Managing Local Water Supply Systems Would Be Hindered

In the proposed rule, there is an exemption for wastewater treatment systems but not for water supply systems, which encompass larger federal and State water delivery systems, as well as smaller reservoirs managed by cities and counties. Most water supply systems meet the new definition of a tributary and will therefore be subjected to federal jurisdiction. This could lead to management difficulties and obstruction of their essential function - transporting water to the millions of Americans who need it. Additionally, communities that are already struggling financially could face significant litigation costs from far-left environmental groups based in other parts of the country.

4. Investment in Water Reuse Facilities Would Be Discouraged

Under the proposed rule, water reuse facilities may also be considered "waters of the United States." Currently, many water reuse facilities are being constructed across the country to more efficiently manage water supply, and are used to irrigate agriculture, landscapes, golf courses, and sometimes even for consumption. Constructing these facilities require significant investment. However, the proposed rule would substantially increase the already high cost of building and maintaining these facilities, and could lead to a tapering down of investment and construction.

5. Lack of Definition for Floodplains & Riparian Areas Increases Cost and Uncertainty

Almost every city and county in the United States contains floodplain and riparian areas, and under the proposed rule, these areas would likely be considered a "water of the United States." Imposing such a sweeping categorical classification will dramatically increase the cost of development in such areas. Determining these boundaries requires significant resources that the majority of cities and counties simply do not have. For example, FEMA spent over $100 million annually in floodplain mapping. Failing to define the boundaries of floodplains and riparian areas will not only impose additional costs on local governments, but also add uncertainty, which is the exact opposite of what the EPA has claimed the proposed rule is meant to do.

 

-30-


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views”
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank our distinguished witnesses for providing testimony this morning.

The regulations enforcing security and safety standards during the nuclear reactor decommissioning process are very important to the people who live around and work in these facilities, a factor we must consider as more plants are forced to shut down due to an erratic regulatory environment.

This is why today's hearing is crucial. Before changes are made to the nuclear decommissioning process, we must hear from those directly impacted to ensure a safe and viable way to move forward.

In a number of these hearings I have noted that regulating just to regulate is a senseless act that causes direct harm to our economy, power supply, and the families who depend on nuclear power to meet their energy needs.

Unfortunately, there are individuals always looking for new ways to regulate, even with limited or no apparent justification. Recent efforts to alter the nuclear decommissioning process include proposing new standards that are not based on sound science or a justifiable need.

Since the 1960s, the United States has decommissioned eleven nuclear reactors with seventeen still going through that process. Throughout this 50-plus year period not once has there been a mishap in the process that has resulted in harm to the public safety.

This committee is purposed with ensuring that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) rules for decommissioning are sufficient to meet the needs of the people we represent.

Safety remains a major priority for this committee. And as the witnesses testify before us today, we will likely hear claims supporting new changes and alterations to the current decommissioning process.

However, I would like to remind folks that many of these alterations do not survive a clear cost-benefit analysis, and are only intended to provide talking points for increased federal interference in our economy.

We will hear calls for the NRC to accept changes to the framework that the Commission's own employees have criticized and opposed, even going so far as noting that further investment of time and money into these issues is wasteful.

I am completely supportive of regulatory efforts that are necessary and make sense, but our current process is successful and there is no urgent need to deviate from that path.

Again, thank you all very much for being here, and I look forward to hearing from each of you on these important issues.

-30-


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Water Subcommittee Hearing on Stormwater Runoff
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife “Solving the Problem of Polluted Transportation Infrastructure Stormwater Runoff”
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today's hearing. Thank you as well to our distinguished witnesses for providing testimony this afternoon. I would also like to take a moment to express the Committee's support and prayers for Senator Boozman as he recovers from surgery back home in Arkansas.

It is no secret that the current Administration sees Congress as an obstacle to its hostile regulatory agenda, and that President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency are willing to ignore multiple agency guidelines and federally mandated transparency laws in order to appease the environmental left. It was only last week that White House counselor John Podesta indicated that there is a "zero percent" chance that President Obama will refrain from imposing misguided climate regulations, as soon as this year--even if that means further undermining our energy security and economic recovery, and even if that means higher energy prices and more unemployment for the American people.

Unfortunately, the Administration's policy of "legislation by regulation" is pervasive, and it has reached the subject of today's hearing: stormwater runoff. There is no question that, under the Clean Water Act, Congress provided EPA with the authority to address and mitigate the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters. However, the EPA has been testing the limits of this authority recently in an ongoing effort to regulate water bodies that were clearly left to the states and private landowners to manage. Some of the more egregious examples have been highlighted by EPW Republicans.

EPA's unlawful effort to regulate the rain creates absurd consequences for local and state officials throughout the country. In one particular case, the Virginia Department of Transportation determined that EPA water flow regulations would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded federal mandates, provide little environmental benefit, and force local authorities to condemn a vast swath of private property in order to construct required stormwater infrastructure. Accordingly, the Department challenged EPA in court, which tossed out EPA's regulations based on the common sense notion that the flow of water is not a pollutant under the Clean Water Act.

Of course, policymakers should examine the problems and potential solutions to water pollution associated with transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, the EPA's and this Administration's refusal to recognize limits to federal authority under current law precludes a sober discussion of these issues.

EPA's proposed "waters of the United States" rule confirms that the agency has no intention of abiding by the limits Congress established in the Clean Water Act. As the written testimony for today's hearing indicates, the Administration's quest for unfettered regulatory authority will in fact impede environmental stewardship and safety efforts by transportation and other officials throughout the country. This calls into question either side of the aisle supporting EPA's proposed rule.

I'd like to make very clear that it is the intention of EPW Republicans to prevent EPA from redefining federal jurisdiction, and to keep EPA bureaucrats out of the back yards of American families and off the property of our farmers, ranchers and small businesses. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel of experts this afternoon on these issues, and I thank Senator Cardin for holding this important hearing.

-30-


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

EPA’s Clean Water Act Policies: Fact vs. Fiction
While concern over the size and scope of our federal government grows, so does the government’s ambition to welcome itself into your backyard
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government’s power under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  EPW Republicans have been concerned with the way this Administration’s water-related policies threaten our nation’s economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more.

On a number of occasions, EPA’s Administrator Gina McCarthy has publicly made disingenuous statements regarding the Agency’s CWA policies, particularly on March 25, 2014 when they released the “waters of the United States” rule.

Administrator McCarthy said: “Our proposed rule will not add to or expand the scope of waters historically protected under the Clean Water Act.” Click here.

Fact check:  This assertion is false as the Agencies admit that they “expect that the outcome of the proposed rule will be an approximate 3 percent increase in assertion of jurisdiction,” showing that Ms. McCarthy is not being forthright when discussing the proposed rule and its potential impacts.  Moreover, the methodology used to determine jurisdiction impacts is highly questionable, suggesting the Agencies are unwilling to acknowledge the full impact of their proposal.  By adding and expanding numerous definitions in the proposed rule, the Agencies are ensuring that virtually all waters, regardless of how remote or isolated they may be, will be swept under the control of the federal government.

This expansion will have a significant impact on numerous regulated activities, such as home building, mining, road construction, commercial property development, water infrastructure projects, and even farming.  It is a prime example of government overreach that puts the Administration’s ideals ahead of the rights of property owners.

McCarthy said: “Water is vital to America’s farmers & ranchers.  Our proposed rule keeps existing Clean Water Act exemptions for agriculture.” (see Gina McCarthy’s Twitter feed, @GinaEPA 3/25 at 11:45 am)

Fact check:  The proposed rule expands the Agencies’ control over land management on farms and ranches.  The agricultural exemptions contained in the proposed rule are essentially exemptions in name only.  Under the proposed rule there are a number of common farm activities that may trigger CWA liability and require a federal permit.  These include ordinary fieldwork, fence construction, pruning trees and shrubs, and controlling weeds, insects, and diseases.

It is also important to note that the Administration refuses to honor existing agricultural exemptions under the Clean Water Act.  In 2012, EPA threatened a West Virginia poultry farmer with civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for failing to obtain a CWA permit.  However, last year a federal court rejected EPA’s threats because the agency was clearly ignoring the CWA’s agricultural stormwater exemption. More recently, another federal court dismissed EPA’s prosecution of a Wyoming farmer, who spent $30,000 to clean-up an irrigation ditch and improve local water quality, because the Agency had failed to recognize the CWA’s exemption for normal farming and ranching activities.

McCarthy said: The new proposed rule “adds certainty for business…” (see @GinaEPA 3/25 at 10:18 am)

Fact check:  The EPA’s current CWA policy creates regulatory uncertainty.  EPA has attempted to use the CWA to kill a business project before a company’s planning documents have been submitted to permitting authorities, and the Agency retroactively terminated a company’s CWA permit four years after it was obtained, despite the company’s compliance with the permits terms.  By subjecting more waters to federal jurisdiction, the proposed rule--combined with the Agency’s eagerness to veto CWA permits whenever it pleases--will add to the uncertainty for businesses.

McCarthy said: “Red tape is not good for business. Our new rule streamlines the process of determining what streams and wetlands are protected.” (see @GinaEPA 3/25 at 12:33 PM)

Fact check:  The CWA permitting system can be incredibly slow and costly.  This proposed rule would only exacerbate the problem by significantly expanding the number of permits that will be required across the country.  This will result in delayed development and longer permitting timelines for the business community.  

The Administration is using the logic that  if more people are aware that they have to obtain a CWA Section 404 “dredge and fill” permit—which takes an individual on average more than two years and more than $270,000 to obtain—red tape will somehow be reduced.  That does not make sense.

McCarthy said: “Our businesses and communities rely on abundant, clean water.  Today’s rule clarifies what’s protected under the Clean Water Act.” (see @GinaEPA 3/25 at 11:07 AM)

Fact check:  Rather than provide clarity to property owners, the proposed rule will only result in more confusion and frustration.  Federal bureaucrats will be able to exploit the rule’s broad regulatory definitions in order to subject homeowners, small businesses, and municipalities to costly permitting requirements and job-killing litigation. The proposal would allow the Agencies to determine on a case-by-case basis whether local waters, such as isolated ponds and wetlands, are subject to federal jurisdiction, rendering the agency’s “clarification” claim meaningless and dubious.  


Monday, May 5, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Subcommittee Field Hearing on Conowingo Dam
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife Field Hearing on “Finding Cooperative Solutions to Environmental Concerns with the Conowingo Dam to
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for calling today's hearing. I would also like to thank our witnesses for testifying before the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife this morning.

The policy questions and potential solutions related to Conowingo Dam, environmental concerns, and energy production are important and deserve the Subcommittee's attention. As we continue to examine these issues, it is critical that we understand the various legal, environmental, and economic challenges and opportunities associated with Conowingo Dam and its relicensing.

The Conowingo Dam is just 10 miles upstream of the Chesapeake Bay, a body of water that has significant historical, ecological, and environmental value for people throughout the United States, especially those who reside in the mid-Atlantic states. I applaud the cooperative and voluntary efforts undertaken by many officials and stakeholders in recent years to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

At the same time, we must recognize that environmental policies and programs related to the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere must be based on sound science and law, and accomplished in a manner which does not jeopardize the livelihoods of hard-working Americans. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) represents a dramatic expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Water Act and threatens state and local land use authority throughout the country, as evidenced by the numerous states that have expressed opposition to the precedent the TMDL could set. As we consider concerns and possible solutions related to the Conowingo Dam, the issues related to the Bay TMDL offer a lesson to policymakers and should lend caution to any top-down regulatory approach.

I appreciate the public and private officials and academics that are here today to provide us with their expertise on these issues. I look forward to the witnesses' testimony and again thank Senator Cardin for holding this important hearing.

-30-


Thursday, May 1, 2014

How the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Act Abuse Affects American Citizens & Businesses
While concern over the size and scope of our federal government grows, so does the government’s ambition to welcome itself into your backyard
The Obama Administration is currently attempting to expand the federal government's power under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPW Republicans have been concerned with the way this Administration's water-related policies threaten our nation's economy, families, farmers, and small business owners. Click here to read more. A recent case in California paints a picture of what more Americans would face under the Administration's prevailing regulatory proposals.

In February 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) ordered the Duarte Nursery in Tehama County, California to suspend farming operations on their land based on alleged Clean Water Act violations, but did not provide the nursery with a constitutionally-required hearing. Duarte then sued the Corps for depriving them of property rights without due process of law. The Corps responded by moving to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that Duarte should be forced to endure a long and costly permitting process in order to make productive use of their land.

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled in favor of Duarte, noting the Corps' Cease and Desist Order had the same legal effect as if the agency "had burned plaintiffs' nursery to the ground in an effort to protect the waters of the U.S."

As a result of the court's decision, Duarte can now challenge the Corps' Cease and Desist Order and proceed in its effort to make the Corps comply with the Constitution's due process requirement. And despite this court decision, the Obama Administration is hoping to expand such intrusions into the lives and private property of even more businesses, farms and families.

Click here to read more.

-30-


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Full Committee Nominations Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Full Committee Nominations Hearing”
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and welcome to the three nominees: Janet McCabe; Ann Dunkin; and Manuel Ehrlich, Jr. While I appreciate everyone taking the time to join us today, I would like to focus on Ms. McCabe and her Agency for the next few minutes.

As you know, for some time we have been engaged in a sustained effort to bring greater transparency to EPA's activities. Sometimes we have been successful, but generally, getting clear, understandable answers and data from the Agency remains a challenge. Ms. McCabe has been at EPA for a number of years, first as the now-Administrator McCarthy's second-in-command, and currently as the acting Assistant Administrator leading the Air Office. She has enjoyed a front row seat during our prolonged efforts with EPA and should be well aware of the expectations of the role she is stepping into - to make this EPA part of the most transparent Administration in history. It is time to stop just talking about it and finally shed some light on Agency processes.

There are many issues I could discuss today, but I want to focus on just three for the time being.

The first is electricity reliability. While we've depended on a diverse electricity generation portfolio, which includes coal, natural gas, and nuclear, EPA's regulatory onslaught targeting power generation makes the future look less certain. American Electric Power's CEO stated that "89% of our coal capacity slated for retirement in mid-2015" was providing the power necessary to meet current demand.

EIA projects additional coal-fired power plant retirements in addition to those already scheduled for 2016. While existing EPA regulations contribute to these plant closures, the pending actions under the President's Climate Action Plan pile on the consequences to electricity reliability and affordability. The most damaging rules - GHG performance standards for power plants, 316(b), and a pending revision to the ozone standard - remain to be finished and imposed on the American consumer.

The second is the greenhouse gas emission performance standards for power plants. The rule for existing sources is going to affect over 1,500 fossil fuel plants in the U.S., including nearly 560 coal-fired power plants. The President set a deadline of June 1st that the Agency appears on track to meet, yet none of us in this room know the exact contents of the proposal except for the nominee.

The rule for new sources had to be re-proposed after receiving over 2 million comments. Clearly, something was seriously wrong, but I can't say that the new version is a rousing success either. Any contemplation of building new coal-fired power plants will require the use of technologies that are not adequately demonstrated at a commercial scale and are based on three incomplete, inoperable projects that are funded by the government. In other words, EPA is mandating a regulation based on fiction.

Increased regulation by EPA through these performance standards has the potential to result in jobs lost across the economy, electricity reliability issues, and increased electric bills.

The third is the social cost of carbon. We have been over this a number of times, and it continues to concern me that direct answers to the simplest of questions and requests remain unfilled. I have asked EPA why they ignored OMB guidance and did not run the social cost of carbon estimate at a 7% discount rate. This is simple and easy to do, but it remains undone, because, I can only assume, of obstinacy among some at EPA. Why does the most transparent Administration in history fear transparency?

I remain concerned that an assessment of the social cost of carbon just with respect to the United States, rather than focusing on whatever global benefits could be found in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, remains undone. While the Administration expects other governments to consider the global consequences of their emissions, the burden of compliance with EPA's GHG regulations is required and felt here at home. To date, the social cost of carbon is used in 28 EPA rules. It is a significant estimate that needs to be fully understood before being allowed to be used in such a haphazard manner.

EPA is in the process of crafting proposed revisions to the national air quality ozone standard, which the Agency previously, estimated could cost taxpayers $90 billion annually. Louisiana will be particularly hard-hit, and most of my state could be plunged into nonattainment after struggling to achieve the 1997 and 2008 standards. My state is not alone in this: most of the U.S., including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone would be unable to comply with the levels the Agency ponders purposing.

These are only a few of the issues I have with the way EPA runs things. In each instance, the Agency seems to be prepared to select the most difficult, most painful, least understandable, and least transparent path.

I hope Ms. McCabe will work with us to change that.

 

-30-


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Full Committee Business Meeting
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Full Committee Business Meeting”
Thank you Chairman Boxer for convening today's markup, and thank you members of this committee for the bipartisan efforts on a majority of the legislation before us today.

Some of the bipartisan work we will move out of committee today is the culmination of a lot of member and staff time to find agreement on important environmental issues. It is encouraging to be reminded that such achievements are possible, even on a committee that oftentimes has major disagreements on some issues - particularly environmental policy. Today we have a number of good bipartisan bills designed to protect our national estuaries, fish and marine habitat, and our water supplies, and to enhance our brownfields program, which helps communities across the country redevelop contaminated or potentially contaminated properties.

One of these bills is the Clean Estuaries Act of 2014. I appreciate Senator Whitehouse's leadership on this legislation, as well as his working with me on this issue over the past several years. Our amendment to the Clean Estuaries Act will provide further certainty that funds allocated under the National Estuary Program are devoted directly to protection and restoration efforts. Again, I thank Senator Whitehouse for working constructively with me to develop our amendment.

Additionally, Senator Boxer will be offering an amendment today to Senator Manchin's Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014. I would like to recognize Chairman Boxer and her staff for working through many late hours over the last week to develop this amendment in coordination with me and my staff. We have worked very closely on today's amendment, and I want to thank both Senators Boxer and Manchin for their leadership on this issue. We have made significant progress on this bill in a short period of time, and I hope that as we move this forward we can continue to work together, along with a wide array of stakeholders, to make any necessary improvements and ensure that this bill creates a workable framework, not only for industry, but more importantly, for the states. I am pleased to be supporting Senator Boxer's amendment and passage of the amended Manchin bill today in committee.

These, and other bipartisan efforts on today's schedule, are important steps for our environment and advancing legislation in the interest of our nation. Thank you.

 

-30-


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vitter Summary Statement for Hearing on MAP-21 Reauthorization
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “MAP-21 Reauthorization: State and Local Perspectives on Transportation Priorities and Funding”
Thank you Chairman Boxer for holding today's hearing. Getting a local and state perspective on our transportation infrastructure is critical to not only understand the state of our infrastructure and the effectiveness of current policies but also to provide the federal government with some much needed guidance.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing before us today. You have all traveled a long way to be here and by doing so you have showed how important surface transportation infrastructure is to your communities, parishes and states.

Collectively you bring a diverse set of perspectives but a common goal of developing a first-class comprehensive transportation network. I look forward to working with you in examining our upcoming challenges and building policies that work towards this common goal.

I especially want to thank Bill Fontenot for making the trip from Louisiana to appear before us today. Mr. Fontenot is the St. Landry Parish President. Prior to being elected as parish president in 2011, he worked as an engineer at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for 38 years in the Highways Department, eighteen of which he severed as one of nine regional district administrators.

Our surface transportation infrastructure consists of several categories or types of roads that come together to create a network. In order to have a healthy and efficient network that can move people and goods, all the pieces of that network need to be cohesive and strong.

• This means investing in the critical rural roads and bridges that we rely on to safely get our kids to school and move this country's vast resources including our agricultural and energy resources to market.

• This means investing in the Interstate system to improve the lanes of commerce and improve our connectivity.
• And it means investing in the vital corridors that link the two.

Such a network is a fundamental component of our nation's economy and our quality of life. A first-class infrastructure in all regions of the country is essential to connect people and communities, and is a critical building block in developing, sustaining, and growing an economy.

However, we can't work toward that cohesive network if we don't have a reliable Highway Trust Fund and prioritize proper investment in streamlined, flexible programs.

Recent actions represent a departure from the intent of the Highway Trust Fund and have prolonged economic uncertainty not only in the direct investment of our infrastructure but also the type of long-term investment that drives economic development at home and makes us more competitive abroad.

If we are going to be successful at putting such a structure back on a sustainable course and deliver on the economic promise of sound infrastructure investment, we must restore trust back in the Highway Trust Fund.

This means that the Trust Fund needs to be sustainable and transparent.

We need to be able to show where taxpayer's dollars are going and where future investment may be utilized on a project by project level. And we must continue to reduce the cost, burden and impact of the red-tape that comes along with federal funds.

Flexible and accessible apportionment programs will also work to restore trust in the Trust Fund. While other investment tools can play an important role, only such apportionment programs have the ability to:

• Improve our transportation infrastructure across-the-board
• Provide a steady revenue stream to mitigate uncertainty
• Provide a base for innovative financing structures
• Empower local and state decision making
• Keep the federal government out of the business of picking winners and losers

We must resist the urge to move back towards small, rigid programs that lack a comprehensive vision and are tailored to only meet the needs of a few states or specific regions.

Again, I thank the chair and the witnesses for their hard work. I look forward to hearing your testimony and working together to invest in our network and get our nation's infrastructure back on track.

 

-30-


Majority Office
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-6176
Minority Office
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-8832